Dare Mighty Things

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pineland Farms 25k

"It's not the heat, it's the stupidity."
- Jay J. Dunn
[Photo Gianina Lindsey]
"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it." - Thucydides

New Gloucester, MAINE -- I have a handful of "A" races on my schedule.  These are my favorite events for both the challenge and the community.  The Pineland Farms 25k in New Gloucester, ME, hosted by Trail Monster Running, is at the top of that list.  The 2011 version would be my fifth consecutive start and would mark a highpoint for acidotic RACING.  The 16 aR athletes that made the trip to RACE acidotic was by far our largest turnout at the event.  I rode up with teammates Rich Lavers, Timmy Lindsey, and Jay Myers.  All three would be racing the 25k version of the event for the first time and I attempted to share my knowledge of the course.  The race essentially breaks down into five 5k's.  The first 5k is downhill and fast, the 2nd 5k regains the lost elevation and is sneaky hard, the 3rd 5k is a rolling recovery, the 4th 5k is a roller coaster, and the 5th 5k is always short but includes a few tougher climbs and an open field to the finish.  Reviewing my performance (and collapse) from last year I formulated the following 5k split plan to PR; :22, :48, 1:07, 1:30, 2:53.  At the start I once again seeded myself incorrectly and had to dodge and weave for the first few hundred meters to get up to pace and find some clean running lanes.  Rich and Dan Dion ran with me for the first 5k and we hit the first split a little fast at 21:45.  By this time the 300+ runners had gotten single file and the wide nordic trails made running the tangents very easy.  Just before the 10k mark Rich fell back a bit correctly deciding to run his own race.  Dan stuck with me aswe hit the 10k split a full 2 MINUTES up at :46 (24:23).  Knowing that we had just run one of the toughest 5k's on the course a little faster than planned I felt very confident that we had banked some precious time and that a PR was well within reach.  Then it happened.  In a bit of ominous self-fulfilling prophecy I utter the phase to Dan, "Just relax.".  I've had 24 hours to mull it over and I'm still not sure exactly what happened but I must have "relaxed" a little too much.  Feeling great and very in control I actually caught and passed the very talented and tough John Agosto of the Shenipsit Striders.  But when I looked at my watch at the 15k mark I almost couldn't believe it...1:11 (25:27).  I had not only squandered the two minute bank, but I had put myself now 4 minutes in the hole!  The 5k split tells the story.  I was a full :60 slower than the 2nd (harder) 5k.  With a painful knowledge of the last 10k of the race I quickly surmised that attempting to make up 4 minutes on the 'other side of the road' was both foolhardy and selfish.  The final 5k of this event has bared witness to some of my most epic physical collapses.  I made up my mind that I would not add to that archive today.  We had, after all, a team title to contend for and I was at the moment our 3rd place runner (behind Phil Erwin and my mentor Steve Wolfe).  Although I clipped off my 20k split (26:31) the objective at that point was to run consistently to the finish.  Something a double hamstring uberspasm prevented me from doing in 2010.  The last 5k was graciously short and I crossed the finish in 2:01:20 good enough for 22nd overall (15th master).  When I reviewed my performances from years past I was actually pretty surprised to learn that although I felt prepared and raced well, the 2:01:20 would be my slowest finish at the event and the 2nd time in 5 tries that I failed to run sub 2:00.  But curiously I feel okay with the effort and am very pleased that I didn't have any health issues.  After the race I had a chance to enjoy the free BBQ and beers with my great friends and teammates.  And although we were 2nd (AGAIN!) in the 25k team competition it was another great event put on by some the best in the business. 

NEXT UP: Exeter Trail Races presented by GoLite Footwear

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekend Double: Northfield & Hoppin' Mad

RACING acidotic alongside the
guru of mountain racing Paul Kirsch
[Photo courtesy Scott Mason]
"What goes up, must come down."  -Sir Isaac Newton

PART I (Saturday): New England Trail Running Championships at Northfield Mountain

Northfield, MA -- Snowshoe racing doubles are one thing...mountain/mud run doubles are something all together different.  The Hoppin' Mad Mud Run had been on the 2011 schedule shortly after returning from the 2010 event.  Funny how motivating a cash prize and free beer are you know.  But I had no, zero, zilch, nada intentions of doubling up this weekend less than 7 days from my "A" race of the entire trail running season (Pineland Farms 25k)!  That was until my good friend and teammate Rich Lavers coerced me into racing the final Northfield Mountain race under the direction of the incomparable legend Dave Dunham.  "Piece of cake." Rich implored.  He didn't show up.  Completely fine under the circumstances as family always comes first but having committed an entry fee and agreeing to be the carpool driver there was no way I was getting out of it.  And I'm really glad Rich "talked" me into it.  The combination of it being the last Dunham-directed edition of the race and the fact that it was serving as the New England Trail Running Championships assured that a completely STACKED field would toe the line.  Walking to registration I ran into Paul Kirsch.  Paul is the driving force behind the USATF-New England Mountain, Ultra, Trail Running and a top notch athlete in his own right.  Having dusted me at Mt. Washington last year the fact that he was sandbagging before the race seemed a little peculiar and I let him know that I wasn't going to fall for it.  A big part of the lure of snowshoe, trail, and mountain racing for me is the community and the competition.  For the most part I know the guys I'm racing against.  Saturday was no exception.  Shortly after the race started I found Paul and locked in on him doing my best to pick through the traffic and get off his right shoulder.  Paul is the definition of a mountain runner.  Living and working where he does affords him the luxury of training consistently in the White Mountains of NH.  And the Northfield Mountain course set up perfectly for him...3 miles UP the mountain and 3 miles down the mountain.  As we began to climb I was content and surprised that I was able to stick with him.  He pulled me up the first two miles of climbing.  With less than a mile of climbing to go I offered to pay back the favor and pull for a little while as I was feeling strong and owed him a debt of gratitude for the work he had just done.  Without consciously trying to pull away I felt him fall back beyond the typical 3-4 meters needed to keep 'hooks' into someone.  Really enjoying racing with him I encouraged him to continue to work knowing that it was probably only a matter of time before he raced by.  I reached the high point of the course slightly ahead and proceeded to descend.  I am typically not a great downhill runner and Paul is equally adept at racing downhill as he is at racing uphill.  As I attempted to "relax" and let gravity take over I wondered how long it would take him to catch and gap me.  One after one, smaller, lighter, fitter, more courageous runners flew by me like I was watching.  But curiously no Paul.  Perhaps I had put enough time on him in those final few hundred meters of climbing to hold him off?  With a 1/4 mile to go I could feel every downhill foot strike reverberate up through my knees and hips.  I couldn't wait for it to be over...give me 20 miles uphill ANY DAY just no more running down!  In some crazy stroke of luck I was able finish two places and 19 seconds ahead of Paul.  Had the race been a 1/2 mile longer he would have surely passed me.  I finished in a respectable 46:26 good enough for 50th overall and 19th master.  Always first class Paul was the first to shake my hand. 


Two time Team Champion aR-BLACK (L-R)
Jason Massa, Rich Lavers, Phil Erwin,
Danny Ferreira, and I.
PART II (Sunday): Hoppin' Mad Mud Run

Amesbury MA -- When you're the defending champion at anything there's always a little more pressure to perform.  Add increased expectations to the mix and it'll keep you up at night.  And so it was that I brought a completely new team to the 2011 Hoppin' Mad Mud Run in Amesbury expertly hosted by Julian Thompson and the folks at HEAT Event Management.  We had such a great time at the '10 event and were treated so graciously that returning to this 2nd year event was a nobrainer.  The challenge would be putting together a team that would rival the previous year.  For the uninitiated, the HMMR is a 10k road/XC course filled with 'military' obstacles held on the spacious Woodsom Farm.  Teams and individuals proceed out in waves.  The RD's had given us the preferred "elite" first wave designation (thereby adding to the pressure).  The trick would be to stay ahead of any other team in that first wave (obviously) and lay down as fast a time as we could.  Not surpisingly the lure of cash, free beer, and glory was enough to get early commitments from Danny Ferreira, Rich Lavers, and Phil Erwin.  And needing an 11th hour substitution our newest teammate Jason Massa stepped up and stepped in.  Before the start we chatted with whom would eventually be our only competition, the Muddy Trotters, led by masters snowshoe racing champion Theresa Ridgway.  It was this same co-ed team that we beat last year by the narrowest of margins.  Not having scouted out the newest obstacles before the race the great unknown held too much potential for catastrophe so our strategy was to get out early on the 2.5+ mile road run, establish a lead, and then try to hold on.  Passing the mile marker in roughly 5:50 we were running comfortably hard and still densely packed together as we put a gap on the Trotters.  Entering Woodsom Farm at just shy of 5km our first obstacle was a series of 5 or 6 Jersey barriers.  We would later learn that our GPS 5k split (18:29:13) was Rich's 5k PR...and we climbed over 6 Jersey's barriers and at least 5 low hurdles!  As we negotiated the obstacles Danny and Phil took turns leading and pulling, clearly the fittest of our five.  Cleanly through 5 miles of fields and obstacles we had managed to establish a lead on the Trotters but they certainly hadn't given up.  In fact, at times it seemed like they closed the gap.  Then with only a handful of obstacles left and less than a 1/2 mile to go the only "experienced" Mud Run competitor on our team, me, screwed up two consecutive challenges.  The first, a reverse slip & slide (in other words you ran up the slip & slide) covered in dish liquid.  For some reason I was the last to attempt it and made it barely 1/2 way up before I went to hands and knees and slid all the way to the bottom.  Now feeling like 1st place was slipping out of our grasp my haste seemed to make the obstacle even more difficult (or could it have been two 10ks in a row?).  With a little coaching and a helping had I finally made it to the top of the 20 foot slip & slide section.  As we ran down and back up a small climb to approach the cargo netting I felt like my experience at the Shawnee Peak Challenge last fall would serve me well on the most daunting obstacle.  I was wrong.  Scrambling up and over the 10 foot high obstacle my left foot hung up on the opposite side of the structure as I attempted to descend leaving me in an awkward position over the top log.  Somehow I managed to free my leg and get to the bottom and by this time the Trotters were just one obstacle behind and closing fast.  Jason and Rich had run ahead to get a little cushion as Danny and Phil hung back to assist me (again).  Pulling up the rear I entered the mud pit with the rest of the team and we crawled to the finish in 43:17.3.  Really an astonishingly fast time considering the XC course and dozen or so challenges.  In the end, our time was just a few minutes faster than the very gutty Muddy Trotters and we successfully defended our team title taking home a great cash prize, free beer, and some great memories. 


NEXT UP: Pineland Farm 25k

Friday, May 6, 2011

7 Sisters

Finishing another (and my
last) 7 Sisters Trail Race
[Courtesy Gianina Lindsey]
"You cannot get ahead while you are getting even."  -Dick Armey

Amherst, MA -- 7 Sisters just isn't "my thing".  Two sisters, heck even 4 sisters maybe...but seven is way past my limit.  Last weekend I once again ventured to western MA with my teammate Rich Lavers (and others) to take on the vaunted 7 Sisters Trail Race.  Despite my epic physical collapse last year, I made the decision to give this race one more go in an attempt to redeem my performance from 2010.  When we arrived on race site we met teammates Timmy Lindsey, Dan Hayden, Judson Cake, and Ryan Welts.  Unlike last time around, this time around I had a race plan.  Run the downs going out easy, power walk the steep ups, and try to split between 1:15-1:20.  The race starts with an immediate 15%+ sharp basalt scattered ascent.  The combination of being fresh (it's the beginning of the race) and fairly descent at climbing (up) this initial section was a great warm-up.  Rich and I stayed together for the entire 6 miles out.  As I picked cautiously downhill other competitors flew by.  Having done that last time and failed miserably I tempered my competitive spirit and let them go.  As we approached the turnaround I was surprised to see that we had run a 1:14.  It really felt much, much slower than that.  Both of us caught a quick splash and headed back out.  At some point in the next 20 minutes I told Rich that we might as well turn the event into a 2-man adventure race and work together to help each other to a PR.  Rich had run 3:20 here last year after a terrible fall and deep forearm laceration with 4 miles to go left him no other choice then to walk it out.  With our 1:14 split, assuming both of us stayed upright, his PR was safe and with as good as I felt mine was also in play.  On the return trip we'd take turns pushing and pulling.  When I noticed he was falling off the pace I put him in front so we'd stay together (a typical strategy in adventure racing).  After a series of climbs he'd return the favor.  And then, with less than two miles to go, my 7 Sisters demons returned.  As we negotiated a steep ascent my legs seized causing me to immediately stand upright making the climb nearly impossible.  I called to Rich to ask if he still had any of the Shot Blocks left that I had seen him stow before the race.  In a twist of tremendous fortune he did and he graciously gave them up.  Without him, and those Shot Blocks, it would have certainly been a repeat performance...or worse.  In moments the cramps had abated and we were again moving purposely forward as the clock ticked past 2:40 on our final ascent.  Now with only minutes to go to set a PR (2:49:11 in 2010), Rich led us down the final steep sketchy descent.  With all I could do to stay upright and with my adductors twinging to signal an impending revolt I shuffled downhill toward the finish taking one last peek at my watch.  Although not a picture perfect effort, I crossed the finish in 2:46:18 good enough for a nearly :03 PR and a nice final chapter to my 7 Sisters experience.  Rich finished 8 seconds ahead securing his own PR and redemption from a course that took it's measure of flesh last spring.  It was also a great day for acidotic RACING as Trigger Point Performance sponsored athlete Judson Cake finished 8th overall, Ryan Welts 14th, and Dan Hayden 34th.  And less than two weeks removed from his first Boston Marathon, 7S rookie Timmy Lindsey finished in just under 4 hours.  A cruel testament to the brutality of this race.  On the 3 hour ride home I had plenty of time to reflect.  Although pleased with the PR, I finally realized that this type of trail/mountain 'hiking' is just not my cup of tea.  I'm simply just not motivated enough to put in the miles necessary to perform to my potential but I have a great deal of respect for the 82 people who finished ahead of me.  7 Sisters is an epic race.  But from now on I'll experience it through the tales of others.

NEXT UP:  Northfield Mountain Trail Race